Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Vacation Stories: The Sip

The thing I remember most about the few days I spent in Los Angeles...well, there's not much because we were pretty much drunk the whole time...I do remember, though, staying up every night until about 3 or 4 in the morning engaging my friends A and G in epic karaoke battles in G's family room.

The same threesome was in Paris five years ago. We were in a hip French eatery, and I turned to the sexy waitress and said,"Nous sommes dure." I meant to say we were tough, a double entendre reflecting the fact that our ordering in clumsy French was making it difficult for the cute waitress and that we were "tough" or "hard." But, what I said literally translated into "We're durable." Sexy if she wanted to hook up with a Frigidaire. It was symbolic -- the three of us are clowns.

I can't sing. A and G both can. But, one night, I found the perfect song. The song I was apparently born to sing. A song that spoke to me in words and sound. I set an alltime record on the karaoke machine singing it: Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon." A 98. Near perfection. Probably better than Boy George could have sung it. I was the fucking MAN.

Problem was, G had passed out. When he awoke the next day and was told about it, he didn't believe me. A confirmed it though. He wanted it back. The karaoke king title. I said the only way he could possibly justify getting it back was beating my score singing "Karma Chameleon." He took the challenge.

We all poured large glasses of wine and got warmed up to some other tunes. I nailed "Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder, so well that I bellowed, "Yeah, bitch, move the fuck over Stevie. Your songbook is mine. Where is the wine?"

Finally, G was ready. He began strong. Off the bat, he started off with a 94, and was getting stronger. His "You come and go"s were magic man. I was panicked. I started pacing in the corner.

He got cocky. He got up slowly criss-crossing the room like his was Deano serenading a room full of tomatoes at the Sands. Sonuvabitch. He was at 96 and climbing.

Then, a critical error. He took a long sip of wine right before the fourth verse. And missed the first line completely. I shot my fist up in the air. He might have been worried, but he didn't show it. No matter, he was at 95 and holding. I thrust my arms in the air and started strutting. A champion still.

But, it wasn't over. He was creeping back. 96. His voice was getting stronger. And the motherfucker was in tune. 97. Then, it was over.

I retained the title. And, then I retired at the top of my game. The sip. A critical error that will go down in the annals of karaoke history. Right next to the chapter about drunk coeds barfing on themselves as they sing "I Want Your Sex."

Friday, August 26, 2005

Vacation Stories: Sin City

Joseph K writes about sex. Sort of. I might as well have written, "Jospeh K writes Portugese love poems." I know probably as much about that as...enough of this self-depricating nonsense. Truth be told, I think I am the shit. And, generally, I am a pretty happy guy. And I don't talk that much about myself. Don't worry, I don't aspire to be an artist.

My friend A and I had been driving the various beltways and byways of Vegas on a surprisingly fruitless search for Red Rock Canyon. We'd just come back from LA, and points east. I was the Karma Chameleon King (another story for another day). There it was on the map. But, the roads didn't match-up. We were going in circles. Blasting on the rental car's stereo: "Push on Jesse Jackson" by the Pacer-Setters. Fuck, how did we end up on the 515? What was the 515?

I looked in the rear-view window. A guy in a Ford Tempo was behind me. Getting a blowjob apparently from his chubby girlfriend. I swear to God that at one point the Pace-Setters lead singer said, "Stand up if you are for freedom and justice," and the girl's head popped up. Right on, sister, me too. Me too.

Well, we gave the fuck up on hiking around Red Rock Canyon. It stayed a reddish spot on the map. We dropped off the rental car, and headed out on an entirely fruitful endeavor: the search for the best cover band in Vegas.

We hit about 10 casinos. Every one of them had some sort of mediocre house band. The worst cover/tribute band: Purple Reign, a Prince "tribute band" that was playing at the Boardwalk. They were so bad, I almost threw my warm bottle of Heineken at them. Pop Culture rocked the house at the Paris. Some point every night, some band would play "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" and make the frat boys feel alive. And, I'd be thinking, "No. Don't. Put the trombone down, chief. Put the fucker down and play some Neil Sedaka."

One band started playing "Brick House" at the Mandalay Bay, and all hell seemed to break loose. A large woman started gyrating in ways that are definitely illegal in the bible belt. A small thin guy made his approach. A and I shook our heads. I am not sure how it happened, but at some point, she was squatting over the guy's head as he slithered on the ground. Eventually, he got up and went up to a woman and said: "Help me. I can't help myself." I assume it was a friend of his. The woman led him a safe distance away from the dance floor. A and I retired for a double vodka and red bull.

A and me walked into the Aladdin around 1:30. Doesn't matter what day it was. They all blended together.

"Hey, man, is that funk?"

"Yeah, man, it is. I think its coming from up there."

We walked up some stairs to the mezzanine level.

At most, I've probably been around 2, maybe 3 prostitutes at one time. And I was always lost at the time, I swear. At least that many within a one block radius. I've never been in a high-density prostitue area.

Upstairs, at the mezannine level bar at the Aladdin, grooving slighlty to a bad cover of some Michael Jackson shit must have been about 15, maybe 20 hos. Sorry, is that not p.c.? More importantly, it that the proper spelling? Is it "hos" or "hoes?"

We ordered a beer from a shamed bartender. He didn't make eye contact. He seemed uncomfortable about it all. Seriously, I thought he might set the whole place on fire, he was so intense. Right as we got our drinks, some thick-glassed high roller took the hand of a young lovely and walked towards the stairs.

A and I spent the next hour surveying the scene, and exchanging awkward grins. The prostitutes were strategically spaced around the bar. We were at a table back from the bar. A couple of them turned around and sized us up as johns. I was wearing a 1972 Lee Trevino polyester brown golf shirt, olive cargo shorts, and flip-flops. Not exactly primo john-wear. In fact, I was surprised no one handed me a mop or kicked over a hackysack.

This kid came upstairs about half-way through our stint there. He was dressed even dorkier than me. Plaid button down short sleeve, khaki shorts and sandals. Too young to be real money. Didn't stop one of the girls from talking to him. He smiled, excited and flattered. Poor fuck didn't know.

Both A and I noticed her at the same time. The regal older woman sitting a couple tables away from us. She sat fully upright, wearing dark glasses, sipping what appeared to be Kir Royals while she surveyed the room. She focused on us and spent a long time looking at us with those dark specs.

The kid stopped smiling. He'd learned what was up. He turned away from the woman who'd talked to him. He was just sipping his beer staring ahead.

In the course of about 15 minutes, A and I had the same conversation over and over again. Should we stay? Should we go? What were we waiting for? We saw them, it was strange, whatt else. We stayed.

The kid and the prostitute he was talking too both looked at their phones. The kid got up and walked towards the stairs. He stopped. The prostitute got up and walked to the stairs. We'd missed something. They walked down the stairs together.

"Fuck, man." One of us said.

We got up and left. As we walked down the stairs, the older woman watched us the whole way, smiling slightly. She'd figured out something about us and who we were.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Vacation Stories: Silicone Valley

Las Vegas is an American patische. Maybe it's even simpler. Its a joke. And we are the set up, the punch line, and the laugh track. It's also really bright at night. Maybe you know all that. It is where the trip began and ended.

A lot happened on the trip (which covered some 600 miles over the course of 9 days), but I begin with an observation about Vegas: I have never found myself surrounded by some many fake breasts in my life. Well, there was that one time with the "fantasie" in Paris in 97, but in all I honesty that was the result of confusion. I thought I was ordering the foie gras platter. Oh, heck, my credit card company didn't believe me either.

In last Vegas, like the heat and the sand they were unavoidable. Wall to wall fake breasts. In the chests of women of all sizes and ages. It was a fake breasts wonderland, and they floated by everywhere leaving many with starry-eyed fascination.

There is even a monument to fake breasts: the pyramid at the Luxor. Yes, I know it is a pyramid, but dig on this. It is man-made like the fake breasts I kept noticing. Also, for a pyramid, it was very breast-shaped. And, at the top, it has a nipple-like device that beams light to the sky at night. Like the Estonian woman had during the fantasie, where...forget it, I've said too much.

It was all very fascinating to me, in a detached, observational way. I've never actually known anyone who has implants. I have probably been around fake breasts before, but it was never so obvious to me. Vegas was where women went to show off their plastic surgeon's good work. They should have put advertising on them to help publicize the plastic surgeons. Some women's tops were so small there was room enough to advertise not only their surgeons, but the National Symphony Orchestra's 1976 album "Excerpts from The Ring of the Nibelung." [Das Rheingold: Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla. Die Walküre: Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music; Ride Of the Valkyries. Siegfried: Forest Murmurs. Götterdämmerung: Siegfried's Rhine Journey; Siegfried's Funeral; Immolation of the Gods]." With room with the tag line, "But it! It's hot!"

How fitting. That on a bed of silicone and saline, we floated on....

Friday, August 19, 2005

A Few Scattered Thoughts

In a few hours, I'll be off for a few days in Las Vegas, where Joseph K has already encamped. Although my contribution to Banality Fair of late has been more in the nature of a patron than a proprietor, I thought I should leave some parting words for our visitors to consider.

I'm still waiting for the resurrection of my enthusiasm for blogging. It isn't just my desire to write here that has waned; I have also been remiss in visiting the blogs of friends. I think my mind can maintain only a few enthusiasms at a time, and they cycle in and out, each new one causing the ejection of an old one. And sometimes, my mind throws up its hands and finds it difficult to maintain any enthusiasm at all. I may be going through one of those phases now. My fiction writing has gone dormant. I haven't even been reading much. Instead, I've been busying myself with relatively mindless tasks like Sudoku puzzles, baseball teams in the playoff hunt, and baseball teams so far out of the playoff hunt it is comical, but that will always be at the center of my heart. I've also been thinking long and hard about the number of household projects stacking up around me, but doing little to trim the list. I've been mourning the last episode of Six Feet Under, which will air while I am in Vegas. If an HBO-capable television is anywhere near us on Sunday, we will be taking a 75-minute break from heathenism to depress ourselves with it.

So the weeds might creep a little higher in the next few days. Do this for us: Leave us a comment. Even though I, for one, have fallen off the commenting wagon at many of your blogs, it would help me, for one, feel like I'm not talking into a black box if there is a conversation here when we return. I think that might be one reason why I haven't been posting lately. There is a logrolling aspect to blogging: You scratch my comments section; I'll scratch yours. I haven't been scratching others' comment sections much, and it makes me afraid that no one will roll my log if I post something. (How's that for mixing three or four metaphors?)

Also, think good thoughts about Vegas. We are going with a tiny bankroll, because of various financial circumstances too gory to describe. As a risk-averse neurotic, I am deathly afraid that we will return with even that tiny bankroll depleted.

And think good thoughts about the Nationals and Royals, as I will be placing bets on them. (Yes, I will be betting on a Royals' win. I could do nothing else.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pre-Vacation Ramblings

So, I am off for the next couple of weeks....this final post will be a stream of consciousness, rambling post...much like the old Larry King columns from the USA Today...only not as cool or simple...King would be like...fish, good for the heart...Dean Martin, as classy as you thought he was...Splash? Splyes!...et cetera...things I have been thinking about...moonwalking versus spacewalking?...spacewalking is slow and requires thousands of dollars of equipment...and a zero G vacuum...moonwalking requires a smooth surface, non-rubber soled shoes, and fluid moves...spacewalking= better helmets....moonwalking=populism, less training...give me moonwalking..."runaway bride" was recently sentenced to community service...she was last seen cutting grass...where was that bitch when I needed her this weekend...Katherine Harris is running for a Senate seat in Florida...she's already cut off voting and certified herself the winner...a 28-year-old South Korea guy died after playing 50 straight hours of video games...died of heart failure and pathos...car I just bought was deemed by Forbes as best car for scaring off your date...I should be happy about my timing then...Next Friday...four words that will change television for the next several generations... "Gene Simmons Rock School"...Peter Jennings made me laugh at least once every time I tuned in...Irvine the sea lion recently got lost and swam to Irvine...fucking narcissist...Treasury Secretary Snow lamented today about his concerns that wealth is not being distrubuted fairly in this country even as the economy gets better...no one laughed...that fucker does NOT know how to tell a joke...see you all in a couple of weeks...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hasidic Reggae

Saw a story about this Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu Miller, and I have to admit that at first I was cynical about whether his music would be any good. But, I have to say it is pretty nice, albeit a bit sentimental (which is no surprise since the lyrics are heavily religious). He's a pretty energetic performer as well. He describes his music as a combination of "the sounds of Bob Marley and Shlomo Carlebach." That sounds about right?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Who Am I? Rest Easy Ted Williams.

So, recently we were getting new shirts for the office softball team, and I was faced with a conundrum: what number to pick. When I played football -- a very short stint qbing possibly the worst Pop Warner in the history of humankind -- I was number 15. It was the perfect number for a quaterback who probably threw 4 times as many interceptions as touchdowns. Quick, name one NFL quaterback who wore #15. I thought so. The best I've been able to come up with over the years is Vince Ferragamo or Neil Lomax. Yuck. Oh, and Jeff Hostetler. Double yuck.

The only sport I was decent at was soccer. There, I was #6. Not sure how that happened, it just did and stuck. Another kind of obscure number. There are some soccer greats who wear #6. Like Roberto Carlos. I was no Roberto Carlos. I was more Nick Van Sicklen.

Neither worked for me for the softball jersey. So, I thought hard and picked the number that drew me in. Number 9. Any half-hearted baseball fan knows that the greatest #9 to play the game was the disembodied head sitting in an Arizona cryogenics facility: Ted Williams. Well, #9 debuted for our softball team yesterday. Let me say this: he was more Vinny Castilla or Geronimo Gil than Ted Williams. 1 for 4 with 1 run scored. The #9 I observed was punchless and inept. Oh yeah, he was me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yoga = Agression, Violence

Recently, a Norweigan prison experimented with using yoga to help sociopathic prisioners develop healthier traits. The results proved shocking. Sigbjoern Hagen, the prison director overseeing the experiment noted that learning yoga had provoked "strong reactions: agitation, aggression, irritability, trouble sleeping and mental confusion."

The results were far from shocking to me. I once got mugged by a yogi. He demanded my spare cash outside a meditation center. I wasn't going there, I just happened to be walking by. We both meditated and stretched about how to proceed next. As he had his eyes closed and embraced his chi, I got up and ran away. I was one of the lucky ones.